Myanmar is a nation of more than 100 ethnic groups in south-eastern Asia besides India, Bangladesh, China, Laos, and Thailand. Myanmar is an ancient country. The biggest city in the country, Yangon, has lively markets, parks and lakes and the gilded pagoda of Shwedagon that holds Buddhist relics and dates from the 6th century. Tourism seems to be a developing industry in Myanmar. While Myanmar has great tourist potentials and attractions in numerous areas, much of the industry still needs to be developed. Furthermore, compared to its neighbors, the visitor numbers in Burma are low. This is mainly because of its current political scenario. After the junta had transferred power to the civil government, however, the tourism sector experienced an increase in arrivals of tourists and, for the first time, tourist arrivals were more than one million in 2012. The Master plan for tourism by the Myanmar government which was initiated in 2013 aimed to get 7.5 million visitors by 2020. However, there are tons of things to do in Myanmar.
Mainly, the capital city of Yangon remains one of the most visited places in Myanmar. But there are also many natural forests, hills, mountains, Buddhist temples, etc. that can be found in Myanmar. So, Myanmar truly remains quite the place to visit for a good tour for those who are looking for a quality trip.
Here, are the top 20 things we think you should do while on your visit to Myanmar. The following 20 things will truly help you enhance your overall traveling experience while at Myanmar.
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Top 20 Things to Do in Myanmar
1. Take a Tour of the Gilded Schwedagon Pagoda
Based on folk legend, Tapusa and Bhallik, 2 merchant brothers hailing from north of the Singuttara hill, presently known as Yangon, got to meet Lord Gautama Buddha while he was alive, and they had received 8 strands of Buddha’s hair. The brothers brought back the holy hairs in a golden casket to Myanmar and, with King Okkalapa’s help, they found the Singuttara Hill, the place which had holy the remains of the other Buddhas who came before Gautama Buddha. 2600 years ago, Shwedagon’s Pagoda was built. The Pagoda is also famous for many miracles that supposedly happened there.
Rudyard Kipling talked about his visit to Shwedagon Pagoda ten years later in “From Sea to Sea and Other Sketches, Letters of Travel” (1889). This historical Pagoda is a must-visit for anyone who plans to go to Myanmar.
2. Buy Some Sand Paintings
For anyone obsessed with Burmese culture, sand paintings are amazing works of art. It depicts the lifestyle of the Burmese people & also talks about Buddhism in Myanmar. Sand paintings are unique & also are widely found in history & literature of Myanmar. The sand paintings are quite extraordinary & are quite famous all over Asia. Tourists can buy one of those as souvenirs at extremely low costs nearby ancient pagodas. So, when in Myanmar, buying a few sand paintings is a must-to-do.
3. Looking for Silverware? Find Some in the Markets of Yangon
In case, you are looking for some great silverware along with embroidery & designs, Yangon & Mandalay have some of the best silverware available. From Silver pots with embroidery to silver rings, everything is available here. Moreover, the main attraction remains the expensive Silver jewelry which keeps shining as the sun rays fall upon them. But, make sure, the jeweler you are buying from has an official jewelry certificate. Also, the silver rings, ear-rings, spoons, utensils & even various showpieces made of Silver are sold in the shops near Inle lake. So, in case, you want to buy some cheap yet great quality silverware, this is a perfect market place. Also, silver cups of extra-ordinary designs seem to be another great commodity to buy from there.
4. Find Some Great Lacquerware to Take Back Home
It is not clear if the art of making stunning lacquerware found in Burma comes from Thailand or China. The most important feature of Burmese lacquerware is that numerous patterns have been molded in relief, incised and also genuine Gold leaves are used in it. On tour to Myanmar, visitors may take lacquerware pieces like some elegant lacquerware bowls for daily meals or home decoration as well. Only Bagan is the place to go to for finding the best premium lacquerware. Take a trip to Bagan for some time, and you can find the best offers in Myanmar.
5. Buy a Traditional Longyi
Whether you have ever tried a Longyi or not, the comfortable cloth remains widely popular throughout Asia and is often used in countries like India, Bangladesh & Sri Lanka. In Myanmar, Longyi is a Unisex cloth. However, it also originates from Myanmar. In Myanmar, Pasa is the men’s Longyi & women’s one is called Htamein. So, when in Myanmar, definitely try buying a Longyi. The comfortable cotton clothes remain widely used throughout South Asia & South-east Asia. Cheap, affordable & comfortable, this Longyi is often considered the best comfortable cloth found in this region. Mostly, in the markets of Yangon, you may find some of the best Longyi & please try to learn how to tie a knot while wearing one. And yes, while buying a Longyi, try to bargain as tourists might often face scamming in such market places.
6. Take a Bike Ride Near the Inle Lake
Inle Lake is situated in Myanmar’s Shan State. Phaung Daw Oo Paya is a single-tier pagoda with gold-plated Buddha sculptures located near the lake. There is a market town called Indein in the hills, there the stupas of Shwe Inn Dein Pagoda shine like gold. Some of the old stupas are now lost inside the jungle & remain covered by wild plants. Maing Thauk Village is separated into two halves & connected by a wooden bridge across the lake.
Just in case, you are looking for a good tour and some natural beauty, Inle Lake is a must-visit destination. From old Pagodas, thriving market places to wonderful serene green sceneries, the whole visit to Inle Lake will help refresh your mind. Take a bike ride to check out the countryside across Inle Lake. Also, do not forget to go trekking at Kalaw, the beautiful hill station situated near Inle Lake.
7. Take a Balloon Ride over Bagan
In Bagan, there are many abandoned temples. And there’s quite an amazing view to watch from up above the skies & also, get to see the sunrise & also the sunset & even get some Champagne along with the amazing balloon ride. Make sure to carry your camera as you will get the chance to get some great shots of Bagan’s Temples & Pagodas as well as the serene natural environment. So, yes, it is a must-try when visiting Myanmar.
8. Check Out the Countryside & the Life of the Locals
Take a tour across the countryside & talk to some of the local people there. The fresh bazaars, the village houses, the local schools & also much of the local institutions located in Myanmar can help you get in touch with the common people who live there. This will help improve your chances of understanding the local Burmese culture. And as Myanmar is an ethnically diverse region, you may as well get the chance to meet the various ethnic groups & religious groups as well. Thus, the experience you will gain from traveling across the countryside is true quite a unique one. However, certain regions like the Rakhine state & some other states wherever there is a conflict situation, access is restricted & we would also advise you to avoid those regions.
9. Discover Buddha’s Sacred Hairs at the Botataung Pagoda
For a price as small as $2, get the chance to visit the Botataung Pagoda. Here, you will get the chance to see some of the hair strands of Buddha inside a golden casket. This is the second Pagoda inside Yangon to possess Buddha’s Holy Hair Strands. Thus, this location is also very necessarily important to individuals who come from the Buddhist faith. So, just in case you wish to take a few good shots of the iconic Pagoda, the visit is a must. ⠀
10. Check Out the Reclining Buddha at Chaukhtatgyi Pagoda
The Reclining Buddha in Yangon stretches nearly up to 66 feet making it way tougher to capture in one shot while taking a photo. Meanwhile, the Reclining Buddha in Bangkok only stretches up to 46 feet. So, this is a must-visit place for any tourist visiting Yangon, Myanmar. However, the place is not so popular among most western tourists who visit there as many do not know. Also, the entry fee is completely free, so, no payment required while going for a visit to watch the amazing Buddha sculpture. So, do check this reclining Buddha statue just in case you come to Yangon, it truly is will help you grow your Instagram audience as a large number of people love pictures from unique travel destinations. And this reclining Buddha statue of Myanmar is one such unique spots that even most tourists do not know of.
11. Set sail at Inya Lake
The British created this artificial lake called “Inya Lake”. It remains among the most beautiful man-made lakes in Asia. Boats are often seen setting sail at the Inya lake. It is the most common place to visit for those tourists who wish to see some clear water, nature & set sail on a small boat watching the environment around them while having conversations with friends. Though the British created it for supplying water to the city, it is now used mainly for rowing or sailing boats.
In case, you are planning to go for a proper boat ride with friends & family, Inya lake is the perfect spot to visit.
12. Take Pictures of the Beautiful Old Buildings at Yangon
Yangon is a historic city. When the British were there, they built many great buildings, churches, houses, offices all over Yangon. These iconic buildings though are mostly falling apart but, some of the others still stand strong. For example, the old Churches at Yangon built by the British still stand strong & show the beauty of the architecture of the city. The building where currently Aya Bank is situated in Yangon is an iconic building having the Colonial architecture & design and just like it, there are many other unique buildings all over Yangon waiting to be discovered & definitely, do not miss the chance of taking pictures of such unique buildings which will definitely help you boost your Instagram game up!
13. Check Out U Bein Bridge
U Bein Bridge is the world’s longest & oldest bridge. Made in 1850, it is made of teak wood and has a length of 1.2 kilometers across Taungthaman lake. People come here to watch the sunset along with hundreds of other people while taking a walk. In recent years, the number of tourists here have increased in large numbers & for its scenic natural beauty, it has now become quite popular among young travelers who wish to see the sunset. Pictures were taken at the U Bein Bridge during sunset & sunrise often comes out very aesthetic.
14. Take a Motorbike on the Road from Mandalay
In case, you wish to see the local life of the people, take a motorbike for rent from Zach Benoy’s tour guide company. They provide on the road motorbike tours across the countryside in Mandalay. Zach Benoy moved to Myanmar from the US to start a chicken farm & currently runs these tour guides as well. It is worth it to take a motorbike road across the roads in the countryside near Mandalay.
15. Enjoy Tea Time in Yangon
Unlike the British, tea time in Yangon is widely practiced throughout day & night, not just only the afternoons. So, just in case, you are wondering how tea here works, the tea in Yangon comes in various styles depending on whether you like the tea Black or the ratio of milk: tea you desire. Based on the milk: tea ratio, there are several names for the tea styles, so, order the one you find suitable for your taste buds. So, try enjoying your tea time while staying at Yangon, the tea also has just some unique taste to it.
16. Visit the Drug Elimination Museum
This museum was created for propaganda purposes by the Myanmar Generals to showcase their success in capturing drugs & eliminating drug production & drug trafficking in Myanmar. Though it is a bizarre propaganda museum, it is worth a visit indeed. This is among the best things to do in Myanmar.
17. Enjoy Your Time at Dat Taw Gyaint Waterfall
Near the historic town of Pyin Oo Lwin, east of Mandalay lies the clear water Dat Taw Gyaint Falls. There is also an earthen Pagoda & an abandoned bridge nearby the waterfall. So, go for a visit to this beautiful waterfall if you ever visit Myanmar.
18. Take a Tour at a Boutique Winery
The Boutique German Winery called Aythaya owns vineyards near Inle Lake, Myanmar. Established in 1999, these vineyards are responsible for the production of whiskey & beer. So, for alcoholics, the winery is a must-visit. Again, there is also Monte DiVino Lodge where the tourists can stay & watch the beautiful vineyards & relax a little.
19. Visit one of Burma’s Best Beaches
Go south of Myanmar to Myeik (sometimes called ‘Mergui’) which remains a beautiful port town that still has colonial-era roads & buildings. From there, set sail to the northern islands of Myeik Archipelago, where you will find white-sand beaches, tropical reefs & the indigenous Moken people who are famously also called ‘sea gypsies.
20. Shopping at Bogyoke Aung San Market
In case, you are looking to buy traditional clothes like the common dresses mostly Longyis & other textiles, definitely try out visiting the Bogye Aung San Market as the whole experience there will truly be unique. Also, the price is firstly very high but, you must know how to bargain just like the locals do & if you are successful, you may as well, be able to buy some really good products at extremely affordable prices.
Myanmar is not a very open country & getting a visa is often tough. And even getting access to most of the regions in Myanmar is tough as the region is home to the greatest number of ethnic groups in Asia. Thus, it is a tough place to govern for the Myanmar government. However, when it comes to tourism, Myanmar is still developing but, yes, there is a lot to see in Myanmar. And we would like to recommend the following 20 things to do in Myanmar case you visit there to help make your visit memorable.